Jason Van Gulick
BELGIUM IDIOSYNCRATICS IDCD 008 CD (2014)
On Entelechy Jason van Gulick uses a minimal percussion set up to compose austere unaccompanied pieces. Solo percussion music produced by an individual within the confines of performance tends to fall into two categories. Complex technical displays of elaborate fills and demanding compound time signatures or the manic intensity of European free improvisation. Here there are similarities with contemporaries in both areas; flurries which recall Chris Corsano and then Glenn Kotche or Jaki Liebezeit. But, for the most part neither of these approaches takes hold in Gulick’s playing.
Although the delicate textures and strange resonances make it difficult to plot the kit Gulick utilises, it appears to be a drum kit much like any other. From this basic framework Gulick drags a variety of half genres and incomprehensible drum cadences. What Entelechy achieves so successfully is a sensation of precise organization. Minor shifts and rhythmic misdirection create tense and unnerving passages that seem to tighten with each bar. The dominant effect is of an internal drama full of grand conflict and resolution or a surreal martial music. Reminiscent of the sparse and precise soundtracks for Japanese Noh theatre or the processed chimes of Tsutomo Ohashi’s soundtrack for Akira, the limited tonal range of chimes and taut, pitched percussion is extended with subtle processed and amplified elements. Heavily reverbed crash cymbals stretch out silent passages and the echoing sound takes on properties of their own. The melodic content is primarily these extensions and amplifications of fading sound waves; ambient disturbances generated beneath the textures and scrapes produced by physical interaction with the kit, poised after the event.
Although focusing on Gulick’s background as an architect is an oversimplification, what makes these recordings unique is the focus on resonance and space and performing in such a way as to provide yourself with the ability to draw out these elements. With a limited tonal range, Gulick manages to sound idiosyncratic solely through technique and form. The clarity and focus of the music is intimidating, as if it could only ever have sounded the same, predetermined way.
The title of the record is an anachronistic term drawn from philosophy and the Greek word ‘entelecheia’. It refers to dynamism and energy, but more specifically the potential and possibility held within each object. The way in which Gulick pitches between inertia and ordered, resonant performance seems particularly suited to this abstract idea.